- Small and light
- integrated 3G/HSDPA
- Fingerprint scanner
- Only two USB slots
- No clasp to keep the notebook closed
- Touchpad is small
Fujitsu Siemens’ LifeBook P7230 should attract the attention of businesses with mobile workforces as it offers the three key features for the mobile professional – a fingerprint sensor for security, integrated 3G for wide-area wireless connectivity and a small footprint for maximum portability. Can it live up to expectations?
As ultraportables go, the LifeBook P7230 makes a very good job of being small and light. Weighing 1.25kg, it's a shade over the 1.19kg Sony VAIO VGN-TZ11XN/B, but is still among the most lightest fully featured notebooks we've seen recently. Its 20.1cm-by-27.3cm footprint and 2.7-3.0cm thickness is nicely compact, and nobody could reasonably object to carrying it around on a daily basis.
Unlike many Fujitsu Siemens notebooks, the LifeBook P7230 lacks a solid clasp between lid and keyboard sections. This means it will need to be carried in some sort of case in order to prevent the lid and base sections being prized apart. Fortunately our review system came with a neat zip-up slip case.
Build quality is generally solid. The lid section has some give, but feels tougher than some extremely thin examples such as the aforementioned Sony VAIO VGN-TZ11XN/B. Fujitsu Siemens’ choice of solid black for the upper body and dark slate-grey for the lower section is businesslike, if uninspired. We appreciate the felt covering on much of the underside, which helps to dissipate heat and keeps the notebook steady on the smooth surface of a desk.
The screen measures 10.6in. from corner to corner and has a native resolution of 1,280 by 768 pixels. It benefits from an LED backlight that helps to make the image bright and clear; Fujitsu Siemens’ Crystal View layer does make the screen a little reflective when there's a light source to the rear, though.
The keyboard is excellent, although it may feel a little small for those with larger hands. There's plenty of return on the keys and they click nicely when pressed. You get a full-height row of number keys and above this a half-height and nearly full-width row of function keys. There's a good-sized Enter key, and a separate inverted-T arrangement of cursor control keys.
Beneath the keyboard is a small touchpad, which we would prefer to be a little wider. Underneath this are two small mouse buttons with a fingerprint sensor nestling between them. Ideally we’d have liked the sensor to be located elsewhere, so the mouse buttons could have been made larger.
The lid and keyboard sections are connected by hinges at their extreme ends, and when the notebook is opened there's a gap between the two sections. The keyboard section has a ridge that fills this gap when the notebook is closed; it contains status indicator lights that are thus visible when the notebook is closed. Also visible and accessible when the notebook is closed are a manual switch for the Wi-Fi radio, the power switch (which flashes blue when the notebook is in standby mode) and two buttons, one marked ‘E’ the other ‘R’.
The 'E' button switches the machine into ‘Eco’ mode, turning off power to the optical drive, PC Card and flash card slots, disabling Wi-Fi and FireWire and lowering the display brightness. You are told this will happen when you hit the button; there's a short wait while Eco mode kicks in, whereupon we found it set the screen brightness too low for comfortable use (a Function key combination soon rectifies that); pressing the button again turns Eco mode off. The ‘R’ button allows you to make a quick backup of the computer to external media or a network drive.
Our review sample was powered by an Intel Core Solo U1400 processor running at 1.2GHz. A refresh of the LifeBook P7230 will use a Core Duo U2500 processor running at the same clock speed. Both processors have 2GB of Level 2 cache and a 533MHz frontside bus and come with 1GB of RAM, upgradable to 2GB. Some of the other specifications are also changed on the refreshed machine.
The integrated Wi-Fi is provided by Intel’s PRO/Wireless 3945ABG adapter, while the wired Gigabit Ethernet connection is from Marvell. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) is also integrated. The operating system is Windows Vista Business.
The LifeBook P7230 also has an integrated 3G/HSDPA module, providing high-speed wide-area wireless connectivity if you have a suitable SIM card. The SIM slot is beneath the battery, which sits on the back edge of the notebook. Fujitsu Siemens provides its own 3G Watcher software for managing connections. Our review model supported a theoretical maximum upload speed of 1.8Mbps, while the refreshed model takes this to 3.6Mbps with 7.2Mbps available in due course. Vodafone has already announced (very limited) support for the latter speed.
For storage, our review model had a 60GB Toshiba hard drive spinning at a moderate 4,200rpm; an 80GB drive is also available. A a modular bay on the right-hand side houses a multiformat DVD rewriter, which can be replaced with an alternative unit such as a second battery if necessary.
Above the screen is a small camera designed primarily for video conferencing. The resolution is only VGA (640 by 480 pixels), although in the refreshed version of this model will have a 1.3 megapixel camera.
Ports and slots are sensibly arranged around the edges of the LifeBook P7230. On the front, a single flash card reader copes with SD, xD and Memory Stick media. On the right edge, behind the optical drive, is a vertically mounted USB 2.0 port. The back, much of which is occupied by the Li-ion battery, also provides house room for the RJ-45 (Ethernet) connector. On the right edge are the remaining ports: USB 2.0, FireWire (IEEE 1394), VGA-out, plus a Type II PC Card slot and the audio (microphone and headphone) jacks. We found no evidence of a modem, although a slot on the back could readily house its RJ-11 connector.
Anti-shock protection for the hard drive is becoming ever more common, — especially on ultraportable and 'thin-and-light' notebooks, which are most likely to be taken out on the road. You can configure Fujitsu Siemens' ShockSensor to alter its sensitivity via a utility whose shortcut sits in the system tray. When the drive head is retracted, a notification appears near the system tray.
Performance & battery life
Its small keyboard will not appeal to everyone, as those with larger hands may find touch typing difficult. Generally, we found the LifeBook P7230 to be a pleasure to use, although the fan noise can be distracting when it kicks in if you're in a quiet location.
Microsoft’s Windows Experience Index (WEI) did not rate this machine very highly, giving it an overall score of 2.0 out of 5.9 — which actually corresponds to the lowest component score. This was the rating applied to Graphics (desktop performance under Windows Aero), which should not be too much of an issue for most business users. The Processor (calculations per second) score was just 2.7, which is down to the Core Solo processor (although during testing we had no issues with processor speed). Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) came in at 2.8. The two highest scores went to Primary hard disk (disk data transfer rate) at 3.4 and RAM Memory (memory operations per second) at 4.3.
As far as battery life is concerned, Fujitsu Siemens claims a maximum of 7.5 hours for the primary 6-cell 5,200mAh battery, and up to 11.5h with an optional 2,300mAh 6-cell secondary battery fitted in the modular bay.
Fujitsu Siemens has missed a couple of tricks with the LifeBook P7230, most notably in providing just two USB slots, a small touchpad and not including a clasp to keep the notebook closed. These niggles are all the more irritating because they are relatively minor and not difficult to fix. Overall, though, this ultraportable notebook may not be stunning to look at, but it performs very solidly indeed.